In office for a little over a year, District 19’s Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) says his bill to help veterans is about to become law.
“It’s the first one of my bills to become law,” Vallone said during a sitdown Monday at the Queens Chronicle office. “The city has to account for services provided to veterans so if they don’t get them, we can help them get what they are entitled to.”
Several other of his bills are in committee, ranging from limiting drones to curbing illegal truck traffic, and he is optimistic about their ultimate passage.
Vallone’s drone bill would regulate their usage and curtail them within five miles of an airport or within one-quarter mile of a school, hospital or church, at night or at an altitude greater than 400 feet.
“We see incidents almost every day,” he said. “It makes sense to regulate them.”
Budgetary issues come into play with his bill mandating full-service animal shelters for the Bronx and Queens. “Everyone is for it, but there may not be funds to pay for them,” he said. “Each shelter would cost $12 million.”
He added that even the receiving centers when open in the two boroughs “are a disgrace” and if money is not available for a full shelter, he is pushing for more services regarding animal adoptions and healthcare.
Another Vallone bill is aimed at curbing illegal truck traffic on residential streets. Since trucks are usually not allowed to use nondesignated routes, police can issue summonses to illegal users, but often refuse to do so when there are no signs indicating the policy.
Vallone said that the Department of Transportation does not like to erect “negative signage,” such as that banning trucks. His bill would require the agency to conduct a study of compliance by truck drivers every three years and rank the 10 blocks within each district where the largest number of trucks illegally disregard the law.
At those locations, the DOT would have to post a sign forbidding the trucks, except for local deliveries.
“It gets so bad that sometimes I can’t get out of my own driveway,” Vallone said.
The councilman touched on several issues impacting his district. He said the School Construction Authority is looking at two locations for possible high school sites, one of which is the Bayside Jewish Center, which is for sale.
“It’s not the largest location but the SCA is desperate,” he said. “People aren’t going to be happy with any school in their neighborhood so that’s why we have to work ahead of time to work out traffic and parking issues, make it a specialized school where district students come first.”
As to the ongoing parking problems on Bell Boulevard, Vallone said a study has been completed and funding is needed to pursue a plan. He is working with the Bayside Village Business Improvement District on the problem because “Bell Boulevard is the economic engine of the district,” he said.
One solution that is being discussed is adding stackers at the existing small municipal lot off Bell Boulevard.
He is also working with Whitestone merchants to create a more cohesive business area. “It may turn into a BID or not, but already they are organizing and got up holiday lights,” Vallone said.
The councilman, who is also an elder law attorney, is particularly interested in senior issues, especially since his district has one of the highest numbers of seniors in the city.
His idea to organize a citywide senior task force has been adopted by the Council and uses a cross-agency approach to solve problems. It has already met three times.
He also announced that District 19 will soon be named one of 10 “age-friendly” districts in the city. “It’s new and we fought to get it here,” he said. “It should help to get funding for senior transportation, park seating and countdown lights.”
Looking back, Vallone called his first year in office a good one. “They call me the smiling councilman and I have a lot to be happy about.”